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28 Mar 2023

Data Pipeline

In computer science, a data pipeline or channel consists of a chain of processes connected so that the output of each element of the chain is the following input. They allow communication and synchronization between processes. It is common to use data buffering between consecutive elements.

Pipeline communication is based on producer/consumer interaction; producer processes (those that send data) communicate with consumer processes (receive data) following a FIFO order. Once data is welcome by the consuming process, it removes from the pipeline.



Pipelines are implemented very efficiently in multitasking operating systems, starting all processes simultaneously and automatically servicing the data read requests for each function when data write in the previous method. In this way, the short-term scheduler will give the use of the CPU to each process as it can execute, minimizing dead times.

Most operating systems implement pipelines to improve performance using buffers, allowing the provider process to generate more data than the consumer can immediately serve.

Unnamed pipe

Nameless pipes have a file in the main memory associated with them, so they are temporary and are removed when either producers or consumers are not using them. They allow communication between the process that creates a pipeline and child processes after completing it.

Named pipe

Its difference from unnamed pipes is that the line is create on the file system and is, therefore, not temporary. They handle system calls ( open, close, read and write ) like the rest of the system files. They allow communication between the processes that use said pipeline, even if there is no hierarchical connection between them.

It is also called FIFO for its behaviour, an extension of the traditional pipeline concept used in POSIX operating systems and is one of the interprocess communication (IPC) methods. This concept is also found in Windows, albeit implemented with different semantics. A traditional pipe has no “name” because it exists anonymously while the process runs. A named pipe is created explicitly by an operating system command and persists after process termination. It deletes once it is On Unix. The power to make named pipes is mkfifo.

Data Pipeline Use Case Example

Data pipelines are useful for getting and analyzing data insights accurately. The technology is helpful for people who store and rely on multiple data sources in silos, require real-time data analytics, or have their data stored in the cloud. For example, data pipeline tools can perform predictive analytics to understand potential future trends. A production department can use predictive analytics to determine when raw materials will likely run out. Predictive analytics can also help forecast which vendors might cause delays. Using efficient data pipeline tools results in insights that can help the production department optimize its operations.

What is an ETL Pipeline?

The ETL data pipeline is a process that includes extracting and transforming data from a source. The data loads into the destination database or ETL data warehouse for analysis or other purposes. This target destination could be a data warehouse, data mart, or database. ETL is a data warehouse process representing Extraction, Transformation and Loading. As its name suggests, the ETL process uses data integration, warehousing, and transformation from disparate sources.

Data Pipeline vs ETL

As stated above, the term “data pipeline” refers to the broad set of all processes in which data moves between systems, even with the current data structure approach. ETL pipelines are a specific type of data pipeline. Here are three critical alterations between the two:

First, data pipelines don’t have to run in batches. ETL pipelines typically move data to the target system in packets regularly. But certain data pipelines can perform real-time processing with streaming computing, allowing data sets to be continually update. It supports real-time analytics and reporting and can power other applications and systems.

Second, data pipelines don’t have to transform data. ETL pipelines change data before loading it into the target system. But data pipelines can either convert the data after it loads into the target system (ELT) or not transform it.

Third, the data pipelines do not have to stop after loading the data. ETL pipelines finish after uploading the data to the destination repository. But data pipes can transmit data; therefore, your upload process can trigger processes in other systems or enable real-time reporting.


Although used interchangeably, ETL and data pipelines are two different terms. While ETL tools use data extraction, transformation, and loading, data pipeline tools may or may not include data transformation.

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